November 21, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Thursday Night Revelations
Ben Roethlisberger: AP
Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 10
  • Heading into the thrill-a-minute Bengals-Steelers clash, I would have sworn there were only three certainties in life: Death, taxes and a monster fantasy game from Fast Willie Parker against Cincy. But Parker's performance at snowy Heinz Field -- to the tune of 37 teeny-tiny yards - was a bigger flop than Cop Rock or Capitol Critters. But hey, at least no one ever lost a fantasy football championship from one of Steven Bochco's TV failures. Seriously, do you realize how many owners may have squandered a playoff berth by putting all their proverbial fantasy eggs in Willie's basket on Thursday? And to make matters worse, Parker could be out a few weeks with a knee injury -- which might only be a blessing for those forward-thinking owners of Mewelde Moore, Parker's backup in Pittsburgh.

    Now for the good news: Ben Roethlisberger (256 total yards, 2 TDs) and Heath Miller (44 yards, 1 TD) came reasonably strong for the Steelers, but it wasn't the kind of performance that had fantasy owners shouting from the rooftops -- especially with the upcoming gauntlet (@ New England, Dallas, @ Baltimore, @ Tennessee) during the playoff weeks.

    Regarding the Bengals ... there is no excuse I'll accept for having any Cincinnati player -- aside from T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4 catches, 20 yards vs. Pittsburgh) -- on your fantasy roster right now. So, obviously, I would hope none of those unmentionables were in your Week 12 starting lineup. If that's the case ... there's nothing like getting an early start on your Christmas shopping during Fantasy Weeks 14, 15 and 16, eh?
  • Listen Up!

    It's not my nature to call out the valued Clicks reader; but I received a few choice emails last Friday and Saturday from dissidents, openly mocking my glowing support of Joseph Addai for Weeks 11-16 (hailing him as the No. 1 running back during that period). Comments like ...

    He hasn't done jack squat all year ... why would he now? ... or
    I'd rather have Dom Rhodes than Addai ... you're an idiot!

    Well, it's only been one week for sure, but Addai (153 yards, 2 TDs vs. Houston) has already proven himself to be one of the NFL's most bankable assets during the stretch run; and personally, I don't see how any team in the next five weeks (even the home-standing Chargers on Sunday) can stop him from racking up 120 total yards and/or 1 TD per game. But it's not just Addai, folks. Any primary Colts player, from Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark to Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne, is destined for fantasy goodness in November and December. Don't believe me? OK, but don't say I didn't warn you -- and especially while living a tortured existence amidst the Steelers' pre-Christmas slate.

    Wildcat-and-Mouse Game

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick may appear cold, joyless and dismissive to everyone he encounters in the sporting world. But the man, at times, has demonstrated an uncanny flair for the dramatic, along with possessing a sneaky-good sense of humor (as dry as that may be). That's why I'm all abuzz over his team's likely-to-be-snarky response to the "Wildcat" formation in Sunday's rematch with the Dolphins. For those with short memories, Ronnie Brown carved up New England for five TDs in Week 3 (four rushing, one passing) -- with every score emanating from the now-famous "Wildcat" formation, or direct-center-snap alignment. How many TDs will Brown score this week ... 1? 2? 3? 4? 5? 6? And, will the Patriots counter with their own version of the Wildcat, or perhaps the run-oriented "Wishbone" attack, led by Randy Moss at quarterback? The suspense is killing me!

    Obviously, Brown will be hard-pressed to repeat the 5-TD feat in Miami on Sunday, but I believe he's a mortal lock for at least one Wildcat touchdown. Am I crazy? Here are some Accuscore projections for Brown ... and Moss (although I don't see him as a "lock" for 110 yards and/or 1 TD in Week 12):

    Ronnie Brown: 96 total yards, 0.7 TDs
    Randy Moss: 4 catches, 48 yards, 0.34 TDs
    Final Score: Miami 20, New England 18

    Five Highest-Scoring Games -- Week 12

    1. Indianapolis @ San Diego
    2. Chicago @ St. Louis
    3. N.Y. Giants @ Arizona
    4. Green Bay @ New Orelans
    5. Oakland @ Denver

    Please Don't Forget, Part I

    Bucs WR Ike Hilliard had nine catches for 92 yards and 1 TD (and something like 17 targets) against the Lions in 2007.

    Fountain Of Youth

    Fifteen years from now, NFL historians will revere the RB Class of '08 in the same way the QB Class of '83 has been deified. We're talking 10 potential franchise backs -- Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall (out for the season) and Jamaal Charles, to name a few. Here are some Week 11 projections for the '08 class, courtesy of Pigskin Addiction:

    Chris Johnson, Titans: 110 yards, 1 TD
    Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: 80 yards, 1 TD
    Steve Slaton, Texans: 120 yards, 1 TD
    Darren McFadden, Raiders: 70 total yards, 1 TD
    Kevin Smith, Lions: 80 yards
    Matt Forte, Bears: 140 total yards, 2 TDs
    Tim Hightower: Cardinals: 60 total yards, 1 TD

    WR Locks for 110 Yards and/or 1 TD -- Week 12

    1. Larry Fitzgerald vs. N.Y. Giants
    2. Anquan Boldin vs. N.Y. Giants
    3. Terrell Owens vs. San Francisco
    4. Brandon Marshall vs. Oakland
    5. Reggie Wayne vs. San Diego
    6. Marques Colston vs. Green Bay
    7. Jerricho Cotchery vs. Tennessee
    8. Antonio Bryant vs. Detroit
    9. Andre Johnson vs. Cleveland
    10. Donnie Avery vs. Chicago

    Call It A Hunch

    I've got a bad feeling that Peyton Hillis's 15 minutes of fantasy fame (two TDs against Atlanta in Week 11) are already up --meaning it may have been unwise to dump Derrick Ward, Greg Camarillo or Donnie Avery for the Denver running back on Wednesday ... and probably a tad foolish to expect grand things from him against Oakland on Sunday. Why do I feel this way? It's simple. As long as Mike Shanahan is orchestrating the Broncos' on-the-field circus (and who could argue with the results, year-in and year-out?) ... I will never presuppose greatness for any tailback in back-to-back weeks - even if Tatum Bell and some random cat named P.J. Pope are the only healthy alternatives. Pope, by the way, toted the rock four times for 35 yards last week ... which, by Shanahan logic, probably means the kid is next in line to titillate the fantasy masses -- if for only one week.

    Target Practice, Part Deux
    Frank Gore: AP

    In every Wednesday Clicks, I faithfully list the Targets -- the number of times per game a receiver or tight end gets thrown to. But, as a reader recently pointed out, I never release Target information with running backs -- which is an unpardonable sin on my part since Reggie Bush (8.7 targets per game in '08 -- easily tops in the NFL) and Frank Gore are carrying my teams in one or both of my Point-Per-Reception (PPR) leagues. So, without further ado, here are the Top 15 running backs in Targets, from Weeks 7 through 11:

    1. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (7.0 Targets)
    2. Frank Gore, 49ers (6.8 Targets)
    3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (6.8 Targets)
    4. Mewelde Moore, Steelers (5.8 Targets)
    5. Michael Bush, Raiders (5.7 Targets)
    6. Chris Johnson, Titans (5.6 Targets)
    7. Marshawn Lynch, Bills (5.6 Targets)
    8. Matt Forte, Bears (5.3 Targets)
    9. Warrick Dunn, Bucs (5.3 Targets)
    10. Dominic Rhodes, Colts (5.0 Targets)
    11. Jerious Norwood, Falcons (5.0 Targets)
    12. Derrick Ward, Giants (5.0 Targets)
    13. Kevin Faulk, Patriots (5.0 Targets)
    14. Joseph Addai, Colts (4.7 Targets)
    15. Marion Barber, Cowboys (4.3 Targets)

    Mail Call

    Kenneth in Jacksonville, Fla. says: Mr. Clemons, I've e-mailed you a few times this season, and so far you've been a big help. In fact, I am No. 1 in my league at 9-1, and I've decided that it would only be fair to send you a part of my winnings if I end up winning the whole thing! Now, I was wondering if you would mind helping me set up my starters for this week (I may just end up e-mailing you every week for the rest of the season as it's now do-or-die time) ...

    I play in a fairly standard (non-PPR), 8-team league and we have to start 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 D/ST. Here are my choices:

    QB: Peyton Manning
    RB: Clinton Portis, Steve Slaton, Thomas Jones, Jamal Lewis
    WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Antonio Bryant, Kevin Walter
    TE: Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley
    D/ST: Dolphins or Vikings (or I can pick up the Cowboys, Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Broncos, Panthers, Falcons or Jets)
    K: Matt Bryant (but Jeff Reed, Josh Scobee, Mason Crosby, Matt Prater, Robbie Gould, Nick Folk and Stephen Gostkowski are all available)

    Answer: Kenneth, I appreciate your compensation plan for my Clicks suggestions; but the work (sadly?) is its own reward when doling out fantasy advice. Besides, this whole process is for, ahem, "entertainment purposes only." Back to your lineup ... let's go with Peyton (obviously) at QB; Portis (if healthy) and Jamal Lewis at RB; Fitzgerald, Marshall and Antonio Bryant at WR; Cooley at TE (I'm nervous about K2's bad shoulder), the Vikings defense and either Gostkowski, Crosby or Matt Bryant (your choice) at kicker.

    Hmmm ... as I was just typing, it dawned on me that while I can neither accept money nor lemon Bundt cakes from Kenneth, I would love to have one shot at the famed island hole at Ponte Vedra Beach. Make it so, Kenneth!

    Fahd in Boston says: I must win this week to get into my league playoffs. I can start 2 RBs and have Frank Gore, Matt Forte, Ryan Grant. Forte is a given, considering his matchup with St. Louis; but what about Gore and Grant? I have a feeling Gore will not do well considering his matchup against a rejuvenated Dallas D. And Grant is rejuvenated playing a so-so New Orleans D. Help Please!

    Answer: No need to get flustered over this game of "Which superstar RB do I play against a suspect defense?" ... you probably cannot go wrong with any selection. That said, I'd play Forte, for sure, and I certainly wouldn't sleep well on Sunday night AFTER benching Gore against a very-average Cowboys run defense ("rejuvenated" doesn't really come to mind here). Yes, Grant has a good matchup, no doubt ... and if you choose him over Gore, it probably won't make-or-break your season. But come on, do you really think Fearless Frank is due for a pedestrian week?

    Tom in Pittsburgh wonders: I have to pick 3 of these 5 RBs to play this week in a 10-team yardage league: Marshawn Lynch, Steve Slaton, Warrick Dunn, DeAngelo Williams, Larry Johnson. I like Slaton and Dunn's matchups (Cleveland and Detroit, respectively), but worry about them being pulled at the goal line. Still, they should put up good numbers. But, will they be better than the others? I know, nice problem to have, but I always sit the wrong guys and I need this one to get into the playoffs.

    Answer: You certainly have plenty of options this week; but if this were my team, I'd go with ... 1) Lynch 2) Williams 3) Johnson 4) Slaton 5) Dunn (you could do much, much worse than starting him this week against the sad-sack Lions -- but I actually think Detroit is due for a win ... so I'm tempering my enthusiasm for Tampa Bay runners). If this were a TD league, I'd go with LJ at the 2-spot. After all, he's healthy, rested and oh-so-due for a bust-out game.

    K.C. in Boston asks: Whom shall I start this week ... QB -- Eli Manning/ Jeff Garcia; RB -- Clinton Portis/Matt Forte; WR -- Terrell Owens/ Bernard Berrian? Anquan Boldin is my other starting WR.

    Answer: It's not my nature to bash the once-great Garcia -- especially before an easy-cheesy matchup with the Lions. But he's thrown only one TD or less in his last 10 starts; and how often, if ever, does a QB with 1 TD bring home a fantasy title? Regarding the other pieces, ride Forte (vs. St. Louis) and T.O. (vs. San Francisco) all the way to fantasy glory in Week 12.

    Thrasher in Boulder, Colo., a Clicks regular and student (presumably) at the University of Colorado asks: Should I be worried that Ahman Green is taking away precious red-zone touches from Steve Slaton? Also, you highlight which offensive players to get for the playoff weeks, but which defense is in the best position to help a team win the championship?

    Answer: Thrasher, my man. Have I not been good to you this entire fantasy season? Have I not been there to help you kill time in between "beverage" runs and late-night pizza deliveries? So, why would you ask me a defensive question -- and one that projects the future? Ugh! But since you asked ... the long and short answer comes in two forms:

    Must-start D/ST: Packers, Titans, Ravens, Bucs, Jets, Steelers, Bears, Vikings and Giants.

    Must-start D/ST, Part II: Whoever is playing the Lions, Raiders, Bengals, Vikings, Texans, Rams and Bears.

    Oh, and yes, you might want to grab Green as Slaton's fantasy handcuff, especially now that he's healthy (for this week, at least).

    Please Don't Forget, Part II

    In Gus Frerotte's only career start against Jacksonville (1997), he threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

    Five Players Who'll Disappoint -- Week 12

    1. Tony Romo (I'm expecting only one TD pass ... to Terrell Owens)
    2. Justin Fargas (Darren McFadden ... your golden chariot awaits -- again)
    3. Dwayne Bowe (I'm having chest pains while writing this)
    4. Matt Ryan (he's due for a week of struggles)
    5. Reggie Bush (temper your expectations -- let him ease back into action)

    Five Unsung Players Who'll Score 1 TD

    1. WR Greg Camarillo (vs. Patriots)
    2. WR Devery Henderson (vs. Packers)
    3. TE John Carlson (vs. Redskins)
    4. RB Brandon Jackson (vs. Saints)
    5. RB Antonio Pittman (vs. Bears)

    Please Don't Forget, Part III

    Philly QB Donovan McNabb threw for 339 yards (and one TD) in the Eagles' humiliating tie with the Bengals last week. And who knows how many yards he could've earned in the second overtime ... ha!

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